Cassie Ramone (AKA Grzymkowski) is a Brooklyn based singer/songwriter and guitarist best known for her work in Vivian Girls and The Babies.
I’m convinced I’ve accidentally found the best way to appreciate King Tuff’s new album, The Other. I’m in the window seat of a plane flying over America this afternoon. I’m staring at the landscape and the clouds and the tiny houses and having a very psychedelic experience without being under the influence of anything. I’m on a budget airline, and there’s no screen, so I don’t even know exactly what state we’re currently above. I’m not connected to Wi-Fi, and my phone is on airplane mode. It’s just me and this crazy world below me and The Other—a heartbreaking album that encapsulates the loneliness found in this decade more than anything else I’ve heard recently.
On the whole, The Other might be Kyle Thomas’s most cohesive album to date. Sonically, it is less rock and roll than his last few albums and veers more towards funk and psychedelia, which is a refreshing and welcome direction. Lyrically, it’s pretty heavy. I’ve been going to therapy recently, and my therapist has brought to light my need to feel connection, which is central to what most of this album is about.
The need to feel a real, cosmic connection with both the world around oneself and the spiritual realm presents itself in pretty much every song here. On “Infinite Mile” and “Birds of Paradise,” it’s an interpersonal connection on some other plane of existence. On “Raindrop Blue” and “Ultraviolet,” a connection with a lover. On “Psycho Star” and “Circuits in the Sand,” a connection among everyone on Earth, and on “The Other” and “Thru the Cracks,” a connection with the creative spirit. I’m kind of oversimplifying, but it’s these types of connection, as opposed to the more addictive connection we have with our devices, that many of us are in dire need of lately.
When was the last time your phone died when you didn’t have access to a charger? When was the last time you went a few days without Wi-Fi? How long did it take for the panic to fade away, and for you to feel at one with the world around you? For me, it happens after five to ten minutes offline, with a gradual loss of discomfort as the technology I remain glued to for most of my waking hours fades from mind. It becomes easier to feel as one with the world around me. To observe and reflect and exist. Ultimately, though, regaining your phone battery ends up feeling like Christmas morning once you have the opportunity.
Back when smartphones were first becoming ubiquitous, but before they were literally everywhere, I swore I’d never get one, because I knew it would suck me in too much. I could see it happening to people around me. But one day, I got tired of getting made fun of every time I pulled my flip phone out, so I got an iPhone–and was immediately addicted. I spent way less time making art or music than I used to. On this note, the one-two whammy of “Birds of Paradise” and “Circuits in the Sand” hits very close to home. The protagonist of “Birds” is depressed and out of touch with their creative side, and the collective protagonists of “Circuits” is literally everyone spending time on their phones instead of with their own thoughts or with one another.
In 2018, the thought of everyone in America having anything in common isn’t an easy one. Political and social tensions are incredibly high, and, hidden behind the curtain of the internet, it’s very easy to spew hate in any direction one chooses. “Circuits in the Sand” smartly juxtaposes differing ideologies (“artist/athlete, stripper/priest, policeman/poet”) and unites them in the sense that no matter who they are, they all have at least one thing (technology addiction) in common. On a more positive note, “Psycho Star” serves as a reminder that the world is a crazy place and we’re all in it together.
The closing track, “No Man’s Land,” makes me feel really sad. It reminds me of a feeling I’ve had for years—where I wish I could move away and escape to a place nobody knows me and begin all over, with no cell phone or computer or social media accounts. Just where people can be people and be in a community together. It’s impossible, though, because the first giveaway that I’m still destined to be myself, as I am, is my tattoos and the second, more important giveaway is the massive digital trail I’ve left behind.
Ultimately, life is crazy and, as people, we all feel the need to connect and create. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that texting isn’t the best form of connection and social media isn’t the best form of creation. We need to go into nature and feel the wind blow and the trees sway and the world around us. It can be a really trippy experience. The Other is a great reminder of that.